Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Life Becoming Art Becoming Life

They say that life sometimes imitates art. Well that's not surprising, as art and life depend on the same material (physical and imaginative) - physically all materials are atoms compacted, randomly coalescing to create the tangible magical substances we call reality. Only in dreams is that which seems tangible not formed of atoms, and is all that we see or experience not formed of some combination of the chemical, the physical and the downright co-incidental (and lucky for us that co-incidences do happen, otherwise most of this world and everything on it would not be here – so my understanding leads me to believe).

This morning I spent trimming back the shrubs that my mother planted about 9 years ago now in our back garden. She got a little bit carried away back then and now we have a small linear forest of various shrubs lined up against the fence, which they have succeeded in punching holes through over the years with their knotty branches, greedy for space and light.

Once I'd recovered from the exertion of 2 hours pruning, I exchanged secateurs, shears and a fretsaw for paint brushes and pencils. I eased myself in by preparing another couple of sheets of paper for future work, basically stretching then staining previously stretched paper with watercolour. My current infatuation is with Ingres paper, that lovely thick textured paper usually used for pastel painting. A few weeks ago I stretched a few old scraps of Ingres paper I found in my paper hoard behind the bed in the spare room where I do most of my artwork. When I finally got round to working on it I was quite pleased with the results, and the base it gave me to work with a new medium, Derwent's lovely Coloursoft range of coloured pencils. I treated myself to a tin of their full range of 72 pencils as part of the Derwent Prize I was very, very lucky to be awarded back in June. I visited their website, where Derwent very helpfully provide a chart of all of their products lightfast ratings. I printed these off, and am carefully checking the lightfast rating before I use any of the pencils in the set (as I am doing with all the coloured pencils I use). I use only those with a rating of 7 and over, though the note on Derwent's on-line lightfast chart reads; 'values of BW6 and higher are considered to be lightfast'. I am somewhat hung up on the lightfast issue, and need really to investigate this further.

Anyway, last night I began working on another old piece of Ingres paper I had stretched a few weeks ago. It's an offcut and a bit of an awkward shape being very long and thin. I found a photograph of a lovely tree I had printed out, loving the graceful shape of the tree and the contrast of still green foliage and crisp freshly fallen golden leaves on the ground. I mentally cropped this image and sketched out my idea on the long skinny Ingres paper, then began lightly staining the paper with Derwent's Inktense colours (using their lightfast charts again to select only those with the highest ratings). I then laid down a wash of clear water to melt the pencil and waited for this to dry before working a little more with Coloursoft pencils, which have quite a different texture (more waxy and subtle) to the Inktense pencils. This morning I worked with more Inktense pencil, staining the paper again, then I sprinkled some opaque watercolour (Windsor & Newton's Artists range) over the leaves, both golden and green to animate the surface a little more. Then worked further in Coloursoft pencils.

I finished off my work for today by splattering some more opaque watercolour and now, I am waiting for it to dry. The splattering, by the way, is great fun. It's just a matter of mixing up some thick watercolour (or acrylic, though watercolour washes off the fingers more easily) then using a stiff brush (I used a square one) to flick the paint in the areas you want to sparkle.

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